Hillary and The Donald - What Is America Thinking?

I am spending several days working here in Britain and in Belgium and everywhere I go - in taxis, in hotels, in restaurants - I am asked: "What is happening in America and what in the world is going on with your election?"

I am spending several days working here in Britain and in Belgium and everywhere I go - in taxis, in hotels, in restaurants - I am asked: "What is happening in America and what in the world is going on with your election?"

In London and throughout Belgium citizens from all walks of life can not even begin to comprehend that there is a real chance Donald Trump could become the next President of the USA, a job held by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and, yes, Bill Clinton!

This feeling of stunned disbelief from our friends and allies here in the UK and on the continent seems mainly to be in reaction to the projected and carefully staged persona Donald Trump has chosen to unleash over the past several months culminating in a rash of Republican primaries where he has managed to pick off all of his GOP rivals with the aplomb of an arrogant teenager at a county fair shooting gallery.

No doubt Trump has carefully crafted his unique - sometimes appealing, sometimes appalling - message to shock and awe the domestic electorate with no concern as to how his pronouncements might affect the rest of the world.

After all, Trump has never been known for his thoughtfully nuanced approach. As we would say in Queens, NYC - a diplomat, he is not.

He is brutally direct in his responses to questions posed by his opponents and now, more than ever, by the media.

He does not seem to consider the impact that his words might have before he opens his mouth...Or does he?

However you cut it, Trump's custom crafted agenda is sending a very mixed message worldwide.

He says he wants to 'Make America Great Again' but what that really means is far from clear.

For most of the American people this statement harks back to the 50's - a simpler time - when America was truly an economic and military world leader and the American people basked in post World War II prosperity and self satisfaction.

In the 50's everything seemed black and white - our challenges were clear and we knew who our friends were as well as our enemies.

At that time America was still new to its role as 'Leader of the Free World' and champion of democracy...phrases that now might seem a bit out of date to some.

With the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 and NATO in 1949 the U.S. and her British Allies had a clear mission - to preserve the peace by keeping the Soviet Union in check.

So it is ironic that Trump evokes this earlier era while simultaneously making statements about ending U.S. participation in NATO and pulling back from America's responsibilities as a world leader.

He has chosen to concentrate on America's problems at home... some manufactured, as he tosses red meat to an anxious and disenfranchised group of citizens who would like to see a wall built on the Mexico border and a ban on all Muslims who hope to enter America.

Trump stresses building up the U.S. Military but at the same time warns that when he is president we will not send U.S. troops to deal with the problems of the world at least not at the expense of the American taxpayer.

So again it is not so clear what role this expanded military force will have... perhaps a mercenary force for hire?

Pulled together so many of Trump's pronouncements do not form any coherent foreign policy agenda.

To his credit Trump has gained popularity in part because there is always a grain of truth in his pronouncements. Lately the American people feel that U.S. intervention or its policy of non-intervention in some cases has produced one failed situation after another.

With the Brexit vote just two weeks away and a host of other weighty problems on the front burner including Russia's assertiveness in the east and the migration crisis and violence spreading throughout Europe, The Donald is on his way over to the UK allegedly to open his Scottish Golf Course. The real reason we rather cynical individuals believe is to show off his foreign policy prowess on the world stage which could result in at least one or two major gaffes as he tries to impress his international audience.

Hillary Clinton, according to the AP count has 2,383 delegates (including Super Delegate commitments), is now the presumptive victor of her party's nomination edging out Bernie Sanders in advance of the New Jersey and California Primaries.

Hillary is now the first woman ever to head a major-party ticket for president in this country.

She, unlike Donald Trump is a seasoned politician and diplomat steeped in perhaps too much nuance.

She knows what to say and what not to say and to whom it should be said.

She is a traditionalist on most issues and pledges to continue the Obama foreign policy - broken or not.

Hillary will continue to be exposed by the 'loyal opposition' - the Grand Old Party - for past deeds she and her husband may have or may not have committed during their long tenure in the public eye.

This exposure enhanced by an opposition research barrage will reach a crescendo moments after she accepts the nomination of her party on 28 July in Philadelphia.

Since the end of the Cold War the U.S. has struggled with its foreign policy goals.

In addition, we are now friends and economic partners with most of our former enemies.

The children and grandchildren of those who fought and died in Vietnam are now vacationing there and President Obama during his recent visit has pledged to open up arms sales to that Southeast Asian dictatorship.

The U.S. and Europe will not stand up to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, Syria and elsewhere because the economic cost is far too great... and let's face it, Putin has The Bomb!

In a world where we are all connected via the Internet and our enemies live amongst us, isolationism is not the answer to achieving peace and security.

As with most U.S. elections, they are a reaction to what has gone on just before.

President Obama set out to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to avoid any other foreign entanglements - in essence the 'Obama Doctrine'. Unfortunately, events in those countries simply refuse to cooperate.

For those who think this is right approach Hillary Clinton seems to offer more of the same.

So, for those who wish to take a different path from the one charted by President Obama, Trump's paradoxical faux muscular approach of an America first isolationism might seem on the surface to fit their needs. But as Gertrude Stein once described Oakland, California, there is simply "no there there".

And that is where the panic sets in.

When faced with the daunting decision of who to vote for in November, Americans must contemplate the following question that out of over 320million Americans - Are Hillary and Donald really the best this nation has to offer?

With each new interaction on this trip abroad, the questions ladened with fear, consternation and disbelief are pretty much the same.

Is it possible for Donald Trump to become the next President of the United States?

Is Hillary Clinton really the only alternative?

My answers to both these queries is YES!

The expressions on their faces... priceless!

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